Increasing Number of Kids Removed from Kansas Homes with Drugs a - KOAM TV 7

Increasing Number of Kids Removed from Kansas Homes with Drugs as Factor; Challenge to Fix for New DCF Leader

Southeast Kansas -

Meier-Hummel takes over December first after her appointment by the Lieutenant Governor today.

            The agency, known as DCF, recently noted a forty-two percent increase in children removed from homes with drugs as a contributing factor in a five year period.

Cindy Harrison, in Chanute understands the problem. She has a swing set that sits idle in her yard. Her son and his wife lost custody of their children. Harrison explained, "He smokes pot he'll admit that but meth is his drug of choice  but he'll take anything  to get a buzz. Last I knew, they were living on the streets."
Harrison said  a deputy serving papers recommended removal of the children because of poor living conditions. She said, "Drugs can do a lot of things to you. Makes you  screw up your priorities. And those kids needed attention,  and they weren't getting it."
Removing kids from homes where drug use is occurring is a problem all too common for the Cherokee County sheriff. And it
s a problem compounded for kids by a shortage of local foster care.
Sheriff David Groves said, "Far too many  times we're having to send kids half way across the state of Kansas. In a strange environment,  they're going through a stressful situation, a scary situation,  a lot of times because their parents have been incarcerated."
Cherokee County Attorney Jake Conard added, "The process doesn't end that night when an officer removes them  from the home. It becomes  an issue for the courts to deal with. We file a child in need of care case."
He said the goal is to get kids back with family first.  But many believe the system is broken.
Harrison argued caseworkers aren
t bad people but of the agency, "They drop the ball. They really do. They don't always follow-up because sometimes they can't. They dont have the manpower.  The county prosecutor said another problem is that  Cherokee county has just one facility for those with addiction problems.
Conard said, "Occasionally we have the situation of an individual that does want help  with their substance  abuse problems and they're just unable to get that. And that certainly prolongs the process if a child is in the system because they have a parent who is a drug user."

Conard has heard and shares some concerns about the system as a whole because of privatization. He explained, I think individual  workers are doing what they think is best for children, but I think it creates a misaligned incentive from time to time on where is the best place  to put this child. Is it back with a family member?  Or is  it  gonna  be with a foster home being paid  on state contract for housing a child overnight?”

In Cindy's case, the children did return to other family members.
She smiled and said, "And they're doing great too, they're thriving."

     Jake Conard also tells us there's an effort underway in Cherokee county to create a permanent home to offer children temporary shelter in such cases. That could be something similar to  "Children's Haven" in Joplin.

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